I write a piece of my husband’s story with a heavy heart. It isn't an easy one to tell because behind the many statistics, behind the words put to paper, are actual beings I love with hearts and futures heavily impacted by the war in Iraq, and the care received afterwards.
My husband served two tours in Iraq in 03/04 as a United States Marine; he came home a different man than he previously was - one not knowing how to exist in this civilian world, not understanding how to endure the mental anguish, the nightmares, the strangers. Even things we take for granted, like the ability to have a gainful relationship with a spouse, child, even a friend, or gain pride from a job well done, became beyond his ability. He was…is, broken. He is now seven years out of the military and only getting worse. How can this be?
My husband initially went to the VA in 2007 seeking help with an open mind. He told some parts of his story, he sought help, and he did exactly what large amounts of marketing money are asking veterans to do today. What happened is this: he wasn’t treated consistently human, he wasn’t treated with consistency at all. He was given medication, a lot of medication. He saw provider after provider, explaining his story over and over, and over again. He went to another state to seek in-patient treatment; he had to start his story all over again with new providers. He was given more medication. As time went by, providers came and went. Every new provider asked his story, offered more medication. Then they left. He became bitter at sharing what little of his story he had decided to share in the first place; he eventually felt like no one cared and he shut down. He is still shut down. He is getting worse every day and is bitter about asking for help. It wasn’t until our story reached a desk in DC that my husband started to receive some consistency in providers, and in care. Unfortunately, I worry that it is too late. He has no trust, yet still has serious demons that haunt him and continually change who he is, who we are as a family.
My hope for the VA is that every veteran can receive consistency in their care; that no spouse has to write a letter pleading for their husband to get help before their VA takes them seriously. My hope is that the VA can realize that with each veteran that feels the way my husband does, a new veteran is asking for an opinion about the VA; this is how wide spread stigmas are created. My hope is that the VA, as a whole, can break down the numbers, see through the statistics, and see each veteran as an individual. My hope is that the VA can utilize the family unit as a valuable source of healing; it is the family unit that has the in-depth knowledge of the veterans past, present, their hopes, dreams, and how to facilitate their needs. The VA ‘hit the nail on the head’ with creating the Post 9/11 Caregiver Program - this program does exactly what was aforementioned: utilizes a close family member for the veterans care, gathers perspective, and forms an action plan as a team. Although the program has many wrinkles to iron out, this well-rounded approach is a positive start to a difficult situation. Now if only other divisions of the VA could take note.
To learn more about the State of Heroes and Families project, please visit our main site or visit any of the following direct project links -
Why This Started: www.familyofavet.com/state_of_veterans_families-why.html
The Statistics: www.familyofavet.com/state_of_veterans_families-statistics.html
Our Stories: www.familyofavet.com/state_of_veterans_families-stories.html
What We Hope For: www.familyofavet.com/state_of_veterans_families-hopes.html
FAQ About the Project: www.familyofavet.com/state_of_veterans_families-faq.html